Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
1 MARCH 2010
Q1 Chairman: Could I welcome our
first panel of witnesses to this one-off evidence session on the
disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at
the University of East Anglia, Lord Lawson of Blaby and Dr Benny
Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and to say to
yourself, Lord Lawson and Dr Peiser, that the whole purpose of
this session, given the shortage of time of the Committee, is
to examine the events surrounding the disclosure of climate data
from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia,
to examine the implications of the disclosure on scientific integrity
and to examine the independent review and the steps taken by the
University since the disclosure. We are not here to discuss whether
climate change is real or not, we are here to talk about what
has happened at the CRU. I wonder if I could start, therefore,
with you, Lord Lawson, and thank you very much indeed for coming
this afternoon. The Independent Inquiry, which has been set up
under the leadership of Sir Muir Russell, has now published its
membership and terms of reference. Do you have confidence in it?
Do you think that is about right?
Lord Lawson of Blaby: I am sorry,
first of all, thank you very much for inviting me to this session.
Q2 Chairman: Not at all.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: I absolutely
realise that the pressure of time, because the dissolution of
Parliament is not that far away, means that you have had to cut
this inquiry much shorter than you would otherwise have done.
I think it is a pity, because I think there are some other people
who have given you some excellent evidence.
Q3 Chairman: We have had 55 pieces
of evidence. We would have liked to invite them all, but you are
here, so can you answer that specific question?
Lord Lawson of Blaby: I will be
very short. I sent Sir Muir Russell a letter on behalf of the
Global Warming Policy Foundation in January saying that I thought,
on the whole, the terms of reference were reasonably okay, that
they needed to be extended to include more fully the issue of
the dissenting scientists who had been allegedly prevented from
having their papers published. That was a very, very serious part
of the charges that were laid and they needed to look into that
more than what actually simply emerged from the CRU. I was more
concerned about the openness and transparency. I said there should
be public hearings, like you are having hereI think that
is very, very importantand I regret the fact that it appears
that they do not intend to do this. I am now much more concerned
when we see the membership of the Inquiry. As you know, already
one member has had to resign because he had already prejudged
the issue. It was the editor-in-chief of Nature, who had written
an editorial saying these people are absolutely in the clear and
those who criticise them are paranoid; that was the word that
was used in that leading article. To have him as an impartial
member of the committee was ridiculous, so he was out.
Q4 Chairman: He has gone.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: He has gone,
but there is still Sir Geoffrey Bolton, who is an extremely eminent
geologist; but he is a committed climate alarmist, and Sir Muir
Russell said that he did not want anybody who had a firm view
on the issue. He is a committed climate alarmist. He is perfectly
entitled to his view, but he has written and spoken on that. He
is also, of course, a very distinguished alumnus of the University
of East Anglia and the environmental section of that where the
CRU comes from. The first 18 years of his career, his formative
years, were there. All I would say is I think that it shows us,
at the very least, a certain carelessness to have packed the committee
in this way, and it does not create confidence.
Q5 Chairman: Is that what you meant
by "it was CRU centric"?
Lord Lawson of Blaby: No, that
was a different point. That was before I knew the composition
of the committee. By "CRU centric" what I meant was
it was too much concerned about the CRU scientists and not perhaps,
I feared, enough attention paid to other scientists who were trying
to get their views published on this.
Q6 Chairman: Some would say, Lord
Lawson, it is because you are perhaps losing the argument here
in terms of the panel that you are criticising them, is that fair?
Lord Lawson of Blaby: No, the
criticisms I made of the composition of the panel are a matter
for regret that I had to make these criticisms, because I think
it will reduce the authority of anything which emerges from that
independent review. I was the first person to call for an independent
inquiry, I think.
Q7 Chairman: You are happy with the
Lord Lawson of Blaby: I have nothing
against the Chairman, no.
Q8 Chairman: He will do a good job.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: I hope so.
We shall see.
Q9 Mr Boswell: Can I crack straight
on perhaps to the proximate cause of all this, which was the events
of July 2009 when UEA, on behalf of CRU, received an unprecedented
and, arguably, administratively overwhelming, 61 FOI requests
relating to the work of the Climate Research Unit. I think in
the previous year there had been just two. Do you consider, Lord
Lawson, that it is understandable that the CRU might struggle
to handle this volume of requests?
Lord Lawson of Blaby: Absolutely,
but you have to stand back. Why was there this volume of requests?
If you look at what actually happened, the sequence of events,
what had happened was there had been a very, very small number
of FOI Act requests to begin with and it was in response to those
that there was all the evasion, the lack of disclosure and all
the other things which we have seen in the emails: discussions
about possibly destroying evidence and so on. All that came well
before the 2009 flood of stuff. The 2009 flood, if you look at
the sequence of events, was a response to the refusal to give
disclosure of various things before. That was what came first.
All the things that are in the emails, that read very badlyobviously
your Committee will have to decide how to interpret them and so
will the Muir Russell Committeeoccurred before this 2009
flood. May I say this, which is, I think, very important? It goes
to the heart your inquiry. The Freedom of Information Act should
not have been brought into this thing at all. Proper scientists,
scientists of integrity, they reveal, and voluntarily they wish
to reveal, all their data and all their methods; they do not need
a Freedom of Information Act request to force it out of them.
If I may say so, I think you have had some very, very good submissions,
a particularly good one, I thought, from the Institute of Physics,
which explains really how scientists should operate, scientists
of integrity, and an appalling one from the University of East
Anglia, encapsulating the Climatic Research Unit, where they say,
for example, "Peer review is the keystone for maintaining
the integrity of scientific research." That is not true.
Ask any decent scientist and they will say the keystone for integrity
in scientific research is full and transparent disclosure of data
and methods, and while peer review can be helpful; it can be actually
Q10 Mr Boswell: Just to summarise,
so I am clear about this, Lord Lawson, what you are effectively
saying is that it was the intransigence of the CRU scientists
within UEA which triggered conduct which might, in certain circumstances,
be regarded as intrinsically rather unreasonable, but it would
not have been necessary to have been unreasonable if the initial
matter had been helped.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: If the scientists
at the CRU had behaved properly.
Q11 Mr Boswell: It is not an unfamiliar
situation in true politics.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: That is
Q12 Mr Boswell: Is that Dr Peiser's
view as well? You were nodding, I think.
Dr Peiser: Yes, the whole problem
is quite unusual in the world of science, because, obviously,
science lives and dies with the issue of testability, replication,
verification, falsification, and, of course, if you have not got
the data set or the methods, then you have to trust the word of
a scientist, you cannot even see whether he has done these calculations
correctly on the basis of solid data, and that is the core of
this problem. It is not about the overall science, it is about
the process of how science works, and I think we are facing a
very, very severe problem with the failure to share that data
and the methodologies with researchers.
Q13 Mr Boswell: Just to be absolutely
clear, carrying on with Dr Peiser, it would be your view that
the sharing of data in relation to the initial approaches would
have been doable and available?
Dr Peiser: Well, it was. We know
that the data was shared, but just with sympathetic researchers,
not with the critics.
Q14 Chairman: That is the fundamental
point that you want to make.
Dr Peiser: Yes.
Q15 Graham Stringer: I am following
you very closely, Lord Lawson, and I think all the Members of
this Committee would agree with what you are saying about transparency
and openness and checkability. Can you tell us how your organisation
is funded? We have had an email this morning saying that you have
not been transparent in the funding of your organisation.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: I do not
think that is within your terms of reference. I am happy to answer
it, but we have got quite a lot to do which is within the terms
Q16 Chairman: Could you just answer
it very briefly?
Lord Lawson of Blaby: We have
donations from private individuals and private charitable trusts.
That is how we are financed. We have one absolutely strict rule:
we will not accept any money at all from the energy industry or
anyone who has any significant interest in the energy industry.
Q17 Graham Stringer: In one sense
you are right, it is not within our terms of reference, but this
is a very fraught and vexed question and there is distrust on
both sides, so it is better to be clear. Is there a list of your
Lord Lawson of Blaby: No, like
most thinktanks, not all but like most, we do not publish a list,
because if donors wish to remain anonymous, for whatever reasons,
perfectly good reasons, then it is their privilege. I am very
happy for them to be published.
Q18 Dr Harris: That is strange, because
Sense about Science, which is an organisation we hear from a lot,
publish all their donors, because they are often accused of being
partisan. Would it not be a good idea for you to adopt that rule;
otherwise people might have concerns?
Lord Lawson of Blaby: We are absolutely
clean. I would be very happy to see the names of all our donors
published, I can assure you, it would be very, very good, but
if they wish to remain anonymous, for whatever reason, maybe they
have other family members who take a different view and they do
not want to have a row within the family, maybe they do not want
a whole lot of other people asking them for money
Q19 Chairman: The short answer is
you are not giving us the names.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: In football
this is called playing the man and not the ball. You get a yellow
card for that.